Most Frequently Asked Questions: Spring
Evergreen trees and shrubs are best planted in the early spring between March 1 and April 15, prior to new growth, or mid- August through October 1 after growth has subsided and the ground is conducive toward easy root establishment. (Do not plant evergreens in late fall, as they will not have time to harden off before the damaging frost and winter winds arrive).
Transplanting is a shock to living plants and certain compensatory measures will help reduce the level of disturbance experienced by the plants. Judicious pruning at the time of planting will help compensate for root damage. Give appropriate attention to watering immediately after planting, and often, sometimes daily, to establish the new root system. Provide an organic mulch at the soil level to help conserve moisture.
Be sure that planting conditions are suitable;
do not plant if the ground is excessively wet or frozen.
For container-grown stock, remove the plant from the container even though the label may state otherwise. So-called plantable or biodegradable containers prevent roots from penetrating out from the container wall. If the plant is root bound, cut through the root mass on several sides and pull out roots to give more room. Dig the hole to a depth equal to the height of the container and twice as wide. Place the root ball in the hole and backfill with removed soil amended with compost. Carefully tamp down the soil in six-inch layers, water thoroughly and create an earth saucer around the plant to hold and direct water to the roots. Give appropriate attention to watering immediately after planting and often, sometimes daily, to establish the new root system. Provide an organic mulch at the soil level to help conserve moisture.
For balled and burlap plants, dig the hole as deep as the ball and twice as wide. Set the plant in the prepared hole and remove the synthetic "burlap" wrapping material from the root ball. Backfill with removed soil amended with compost. Carefully tamp down the soil in six-inch layers, water thoroughly and create an earth saucer around the plant to hold and direct water to the roots. Give appropriate attention to watering immediately after planting and often, sometimes daily, to establish the new root system. Provide an organic mulch on the soil to help conserve moisture.
Compost cannot really replace fertilizer but it does enhance its effectiveness. Fertilizer contains nutrients, the three primary ones being nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) in varying ratios. Each nutrient plays an important part in overall plant growth and vigor. Nitrogen contributes to overall general health and foliage production and growth, Phosphorous promotes a strong root system and boosts flower production and Potassium enhances fruit production.
To determine the pH reading of your garden soil, obtain a home soil-testing kit and follow the instructions to take a soil sample and test it. Since soils vary considerably on a site, it is best to take random soil samples and mix them together to get an average reading. For lawns, take a sample from the top 2-4 inches of soil. If the area to be sampled is for trees and shrubs, a sample taken to the depth of 8-12 inches is recommended. If the soil from your sample is found to be too acidic for the type of plants you want to grow, you will need to adjust the pH by adding lime, or if the pH is too high, it can be lowered with the addition of sulfur.
A complete soil analysis will test for nutrients in addition to pH. The most important nutrients for plant growth include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) although the presence of other minerals called trace elements is necessary for plant growth in lower proportions. If an area in your garden has been used over and over again to grow the same types of plants, i.e. vegetable crops, the soil may become depleted in certain trace elements over time. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for information on complete soil testing services available to you.
It is also advisable to test your soil for composition as the types and distribution of particles within a soil will influence its drainage capacity and the availability of nutrients to plant roots. Take a handful of soil, if it feeds gritty, it is mostly sand, if it feels slippery, clay, if crumbly; loam. If there is organic matter present, a black coating will remain on your hands after moistening them and squeezing a handful of soil. Count the number of earthworms in a soil sample, 1' x 1' x 6", if there are at least ten, your soil content is sufficiently organic.
Early-spring flowering shrubs like Azalea, Forsythia, Rhododendron and Spirea need to be pruned just after flowering.
Summer-flowering shrubs that bloom on new wood such as Hydrangea and Buddleia must be pruned in the early spring before new growth starts.
Prune evergreen hedges such as Buxus, Yew and Tsuga in the early spring just before new growth begins.
Finally, prune all roses in early spring except climbers and ramblers; they need pruning only after they flower.
Additional steps include the use of mulches to reduce soil temperature and evapotranspiration rates. Mulches will also insulate plant roots from summer heat and help reduce weeds, which compete with plants for moisture. Keep in mind that fine textured organic mulches such as pine needles and shredded bark hold water better than coarse textured ones.
Now is the best time to plan and install the most effective drip irrigation system equipped with point/source tubing with emitters "punched-in" where plants are located, soaker hoses and/or moveable micro-irrigation sprinklers which gently deliver water only to the roots of your garden plants.
You also may want to reduce the amount of turf areas, as they demand such high-water use with standard sprinkler systems. Replace water demanding turf species with low to moderate-use species. Use turf grasses that may go dormant when unwatered but will green-up again when rainfall returns.
During the summer dry times, follow these water-wise principles:
Cultural practices such as proper spacing and pruning to encourage good air circulation, selection based on hardiness, site-suitability, disease and pest resistance will go along way to keep plants healthy and stress-free, and therefore more resistant to attack.
Instead of resorting to pesticides if a pest problem exists, first try simple mechanical methods of removal such as hand picking or washing down with water to dislodge the pests. A strong water jet spray from a garden hose is quite effective for this purpose.
If this does not fully solve the problem, use
a stronger pest suppressor such as an insectididal soap spray, which disrupts
the outer membrane of certain insect pests.